One of my favorite things about racing is that as you get closer to the start date, the excitement starts to build and the focus starts to sharpen and the senses start to peel back in anticipation. Yes, roll your eyes, but if you’ve ever been there you’ll understand what I’m talking about. It’s as if there is a “more” true, “more” raw version of you inside ready to come out and play.
These days racing is fun for me. It’s not a stressful experience like it was in the beginning, when it seemed like there were a 101 things that could trip you up along the way. Be it tiny pieces of gravel in my rear axle from changing the tire in a gravel parking lot to losing a cleat 5km into a 75km mountain bike race there always seemed to be something lying in wait for me.
Like people who can’t see the positive in life, I felt this monkey on my back for many years. Not consistently, but enough that it would unsettle me before the big event. Sometimes things went well, sometimes not so well.
When they went poorly I was hard on myself, frustrated with other people who did or didn’t help me, or give me the right advice or fix the right part or whatever the issue was. Over time I came to realize that this was in my realm to fix and not up to anyone else. I needed to take the time to learn how to prepare properly. Nobody else could do this for me, and they still can’t.
Once you realize this, it’s extremely empowering.
There’s a freedom that comes from recognizing that you’re the captain of your own little race team – team you! No matter how many people are there to help you, it ultimately comes down to your organizational skills and management skills to get your shit together for race day.
Racing is an excellent way to marshal and focus your resources. It defines the training regime, it defines the need to have a bike in top condition and most importantly it defines the need to be mentally fit and emotionally relaxed.
I like to say that in order to be successful you need good coaching to establish a strong framework and you need riders who are better than you to train with. This will help you keep your objectives on track, and help you push harder than you would do by yourself. Personal bests without competition are simply not as rewarding.
In 10 days time, I’ll be into an 8 day, 1,000km mountain bike race and my “team me” will be pushed to the max. This is where I make silly mistakes, over-reach on the course and worst of all get tired and lazy to keep addressing the little things at the end of the day.
Nothing could be more simply fixed that properly washing bib shorts or applying cream to the nethers, or taking a recovery drink and snack to bed (I am always ferociously hungry at 3am when racing multi-day). Don’t under-estimate the importance of all these little things all added up together.
Checklists help, experience helps a bit more, and having friends and team-mates to discuss all these things with helps the most. Drinking too many beers with said friends at dinner definitely doesn’t help as much. So keep those calories in check and resist the urge to celebrate until the end. Tempting as it might be.
Travel arrangements are in place, hotels await and best of all, bike is dialled in to near-perfection. I am excited to finish the journey to the start line.
Unicorn feeding time.